March 11, 2007
Gary Walters and the NCAA tournament selection committee had a very difficult assignment because there is so much parity in college basketball. I felt going into the selection show that as many as a dozen teams would be upset that they were left out of the big dance. Usually you have one or two teams with a legitimate gripe about being excluded from the field of 65.
One program that was left out that upset me was Drexel. Bruiser Flint's team played a demanding non-conference schedule, with many road challenges. The Dragons earned wins at Villanova, at Creighton and at Syracuse, three impressive Ws. Drexel went 23-8 and played in the underrated and difficult Colonial Athletic Association.
Unfortunately it was not good enough. I was very surprised to see Arkansas make it into the field. The Razorbacks went 7-9 in the SEC West, and that is mediocrity to me. Yes, Arkansas went to the finals of the SEC tournament before getting blown out by Florida. The bottom line is the Razorbacks beat South Carolina, Vanderbilt and Mississippi State to make the conference title game.
Yes, Arkansas beat Southern Illinois and West Virginia. Then look at a 22-point loss to Missouri, a 15-point loss to Texas Tech in Little Rock, a 24-point loss at Mississippi State. There was a close call against Texas too.
I also felt Syracuse had a strong case to be in the field. The Orange beat Georgetown and that was the lone Hoyas loss in the last 16 games. Syracuse also won at Marquette and beat Villanova. Jim Boeheim has every right to be disappointed.
Other teams that saw the bubble burst included Kansas State and Florida State. You can't tell me that the Seminoles, with five wins over top 50 teams, is not one of the best 34 at-large squads. Remember, Tony Douglas missed five games and Florida State went 1-4 in those contests. Douglas is back now, but the committee did not feel his return was enough to put them in the field.
Oh well. It is time to look ahead and enjoy a great NCAA tournament.
Dick Vitale coached the Pistons and the University of Detroit before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in December 1979. Send him a question for possible use on ESPNEWS.